Dugan Gets Changa's Tick Of Approval
Dan Walsh, NRL.com
"Now the players all wear colours, the circus is in town, and I no longer can go down there, down to that sacred ground," sang Paul Kelly in his enduring tribute to the SCG's favourite son, Don Bradman.
While Bradman holds the keys to the joint and Jack Gibson had a spare set, there's a bloke who answers to 'Changa' who knows the secret knock to Australia's most exclusive sporting clubhouse.
Four grand final wins on the hallowed turf, 227 first grade games and 45 Tests for his country were surplus to membership requirements for rugby league Immortal, Graeme Langlands.
The rugby league circus has rolled back into the famous ground this week for the Men of League's Heritage Round and Changa is along for the ride, joining fellow greats Ron Coote and Steve Edge in media duties in the lead up to Saturday's clash between the Dragons and the Rabbitohs.
The living legend laughs when you suggest he is responsible for the boots the players wear these days – where colours that could stun a deer are the norm, not the exception – almost 40 years after Langlands first paraded a pair of flash new pair of white Adidas boots like they were the new black.
"No I had a shocker that day, so I don't think too many went out and bought the boots because of me," says Langlands of the fateful 1975 Grand Final when an ill-directed pain killing injection numbed his right leg and the Dragons were thrashed 38-0 by Gibson's all-conquering Roosters.
"But the colours they all wear now, and the tattoos they've all got, I'm not too keen on those."
Rugby league has certainly come a long way since 1975.
And the man wearing the Dragons No.1 jersey that Langlands made so famous has also come a long way, as St George Illawarra custodian Josh Dugan returns from a six-week knee injury for his first run at the SCG.
The incumbent NSW fullback – who has more tattoos than teeth and a boot for every colour of the rainbow – is also the best prospect the Dragons have had in the one jersey since a 22-year-old Langlands lobbed up on their doorstep via Wollongong, despite having only played 10 games for the Red V since joining the club last year.
Not that he has anything to worry about, says Langlands, be it his first game on the hallowed turf or the nerves he confessed to earlier in the week about fitting back into a Dragons side that has won three of its opening four matches.
"I think the only thing he's got to worry about would be coming back with the ligament in his knee. But he seems pretty confident about it so let's hope it pulls through and he can play to the very high standards he's set.
"I'm not a real keen tattoo man, so he might have to avoid the pitch area with those, I don't know how they work," chuckled Langlands, who said he wouldn't be offering the former Raider any advice before Saturday's clash with the Rabbitohs.
"He's a very, very fine player and he doesn't need any tips from me, he knows what to do out there.
"His combination with the new young bloke Widdop is very exciting and should be very, very good."
A fine player indeed, but how would Dugan have fared back in Langlands' day, when hard men like Mal Reilly and John O'Neill ate nails for breakfast and flashy outside backs for lunch?
"A few of the big boys might've looked twice at him, but I've just met him for the first time today and never realised he's such a big bugger himself. So he would've been received alright, not too many would've got hold of him.
"He's just a very good footballer."
Here's looking at you Changa, just another very, very good footballer in a flash pair of boots.